Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming

At its Tuesday meeting, a short-handed board of park commissioners decided on a split vote to reject the city staff’s proposed fee structure for food and beverage artisans in the coming season at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Bloomington parks and recreation staff will now work to come up with an alternate fee structure proposal for food and beverage artisans.

The alternate structure could include lower fees and will likely be considered at the board’s February or March meeting. The farmer stall fee structure was already approved by the board in early January. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming”

No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor

Five protesters who were arrested at Bloomington’s farmers market on Nov. 9 last year,  will not be prosecuted for their actions, according to a statement issued Wednesday morning by Monroe County’s prosecutor. They had been given summonses for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

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Flanked by two Bloomington police officers on Nov. 9, 2019, after his arrest at the farmers market for a protest against white supremacy, is Forrest Gilmore wearing a purple unicorn costume. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

The protest got national attention in part because of the inflatable purple unicorn costume worn by one of the protestors.

In the statement from the prosecutor’s office, Monroe County’s prosecutor, Erika Oliphant, is quoted saying, “My office has evaluated the specific facts and circumstances surrounding these citations, and we have decided that it is appropriate to decline prosecution in this instance.”

The specific facts of the situation included protest activity—holding signs and loud singing inside the market vendor area—directed at the Schooner Creek Farm stand. The owners of Schooner Creek were identified by local activists earlier in the year as having ties to a white supremacist group.

In late July last year, one protestor was arrested for similar activity—holding a sign near the Schooner Creek Farm stand. That protestor was also not prosecuted. Continue reading “No charges for protestors at Bloomington farmers market, says Monroe County prosecutor”

Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech

Continue reading “Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech”

Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place

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Bloomington’s farmers market advisory council (FMTAC) takes a vote Monday night on a recommendation that the percentage of gross sales that food and beverage artisans pay to the market be reduced from 10 to 5 percent in 2020, with a goal of establishing a fixed fee on par with that paid by farm vendors. FMTAC did not take a vote for or against privatization of the market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Jan. 9 next year, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners will make a decision about the future of the city-sponsored market, which last year featured 121 farm vendors and 17 food and beverage artisans. Continue reading “Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place”

Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.”

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City council chambers were packed on Saturday afternoon for a panel discussion on the future of Bloomington’s farmers market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

A decision about if and how Bloomington’s farmers market will operate next year won’t come until Jan. 9. That announcement was made by Mary Catherine Carmichael, director of public engagement for the city of Bloomington, to a crowd that packed city council chambers on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.””

Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors

At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.

Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”

What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was  suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.

At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.

For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.

Bruce McCallister, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said after meeting with vendors and listening to them, “My takeaway was there are a lot of people really hurting [financially and personally] from this season and a sense of urgency to try and address that before next year.” Continue reading “Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors”

Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations

Vendors who moved to a different location during the recent two-week suspension of Bloomington’s farmers market had to get a $50 temporary permit from the county health department.

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Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman, was exuberant on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019 at the alternate location for farmers market vendors behind the east-side Bloomingfoods in the former Kmart parking lot.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That was the news from Penny Caudill, the county’s health administrator, as delivered to Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Permits from the health department for vending at a farmers market are issued to individual vendors not the market as a general site, Caudill told The Beacon.

Caudill said her department had reviewed whether it would be possible to waive the fee for the temporary event permits, which her department issued to the displaced vendors. It wasn’t possible, she said. Continue reading “Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations”

City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday

After announcing on July 29 that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the following two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton issued a press release on Tuesday Aug. 13 that announced the resumption of the farmers market.

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The view northwest towards the City of Bloomington’s farmers market venue from the Morton Street parking garage. In the foreground is part of the 2013 sculpture “Illuminated Fruit” by  Andrew Huddleston and Amy Brier (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The farmers market will re-open on Saturday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Showers Common, the usual time and place.

The general background for the temporary market closure was described this way in the City’s initial press release: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”

The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”

Tuesday’s release describes several measures meant to improve security and make people feel safe:

  • Cameras to monitor the site
  • Two public streets will be closed to traffic during market hours. The idea is  to create a larger “comfort zone” for the market crowd. (Morton Street from 7th Street to just south of the Smallwood garage entrance, and 7th Street between Morton and the B-Line Trail; 8th Street will be closed west of the market to the entrance of the Cook Medical Center).
  • Police presence will be increased.
  • New “market ambassadors” will welcome market visitors.
  • New signage will indicate areas designated for flyering and publicize the market’s rules.

The press release says people who want to become “market ambassadors” should contact the city. Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday”

Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening

Anecdotal reports of attendance being down this year at Bloomington’s farmers market were confirmed with some numbers  on Monday during a Facebook livestream event hosted by the mayor’s office.

Parks and recreation department administrator Paula McDevitt said there’d been 19,000 market visitors this July compared with 40,000 last year.

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That’s consistent with the total figures to date reviewed by The Beacon.

The FB live-stream came during the two-week hiatus for the market, declared by Mayor John Hamilton due to public safety concerns.

During Monday’s FB live-stream, Hamilton said he would announce on Tuesday how the market would re-open. By Monday afternoon, the city had not confirmed that the market will be open as usual on Aug. 17. Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening”

Substitute farmers market behind Bloomingfoods helps fill in for first missing Saturday

The first of two non-market Saturdays is now in the books for the farmers market facility on Morton Street in downtown Bloomington, next to city hall.

Substituting for the usual location yesterday were several alternate spots. Of those, probably the most prominent was the parking lot of the former Kmart location off 3rd street, behind the east-side Bloomingfoods.

That’s where around 50 vendors listed on the welcome table’s roster and booth map were selling fresh produce from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Scenes from the substitute farmers market held on Saturday in the former Kmart parking lot behind Bloomingfoods. Aug. 3, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At least a few hundred people were at the market when The Beacon dropped by around 10:30 a.m.

They’ll repeat that scene next Saturday, but return to downtown Bloomington the following week—if the City of Bloomington has been able to implement the safeguards it thinks are necessary to re-open the market.

Last Monday, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced a two-Saturday suspension of the downtown farmers market—citing threats to public safety: “[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.” Continue reading “Substitute farmers market behind Bloomingfoods helps fill in for first missing Saturday”